Articles of War: World War II Crimes.

As a matter of fact, in General Yamashita’s case,244 which was brought after the termination of hostilities for alleged “war crimes,” the Court abandoned its restrictive conception altogether. In the words of Justice Rutledge’s dissenting opinion in this case: “The difference between the Court’s view of this proceeding and my own comes down in the end to the view, on the one hand, that there is no law restrictive upon these proceedings other than whatever rules and regulations may be prescribed for their government by the executive authority or the military and, on the other hand, that the provisions of the Articles of War, of the Geneva Convention and the Fifth Amendment apply.”245 And the adherence of the United States to the Charter of London in August 1945, under which the Nazi leaders were brought to trial, is explicable by the same theory. These individuals were charged with the crime of instigating aggressive war, which at the time of its commission was not a crime either under international law or under the laws of the prosecuting governments. It must be presumed that the President is not in his capacity as Supreme Commander bound by the prohibition in the Constitution of ex post facto laws, nor does international law forbid ex post facto laws.246

Footnotes

244
In re Yamashita, 327 U.S. 1 (1946). [Back to text]
245
327 U.S. at 81. [Back to text]
246
See Gross, The Criminality of Aggressive War, 41 AM. POL. SCI. REV. 205 (1947). [Back to text]